Flying Aircraft Carriers of the USAF: Project FICON
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Project FICON (Fighter conveyer): In the early 1950s, the Air Force conducted a series of experiments to establish the feasibility of carrying, launching, and retrieving jet reconnaissance airplanes from giant Convair RB-36 bombers. It was hoped that the bombers would carry the reconnaissance jets to the perimeter of the Soviet Union and then release them to penetrate the air defenses. Tests of the concept were conducted in 1952 and 1953 with a Republic F-84E Thunderjet and the YF-84F Thunderstreak prototype. Twenty-six Republic RF-84F Thunderflashes and ten Convair GRB-36D carriers were modified for the project. In 1955, a squadron of carriers was established at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. A squadron of parasites was established at nearby Larson Air Force Base. Training operations began in December 1955, but the composite aircraft system faced competition from the Boeing RB-52B, Lockheed U-2, and the development of aerial refueling.